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Preparing workplaces for ‘the new normal’

By Kaelanne Jordan
Twitter: @kaelanne1

With some businesses reopened in the first phase (May 10-23), there is “definitely” a need to develop an Infectious Disease Code of Conduct/Ethics for business places. The purpose of this, according to Dr Joeline Charles is to ensure employees are made aware or trained for adapting to the “new reality” of COVID-19.

Charles is a Registered Accredited Medical Sonologist with the Ministry of Health. She has experience with policy making with regards to infection control. Charles was among the panellists speaking during a Zoom meeting hosted by the Arima Business Association, Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry & Commerce, San Juan Business Association and The Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, May 14.

The discussion was titled COVID-19: Adapting Your Business to the ‘New Normal’. Charles’ presentation was on ‘Safety Policies post- COVID-19, the New Normal’.

Other panellists were Ramon Gregorio, Chief Curiousity Officer, Lucent Research Limited and Douglas Ames, Chief Dishwasher Toucan.

Charles observed that some businesses have already adapted and implemented appropriate engineering controls such as improving air ventilation to ensure the infection does not spread, decreasing the capacity in elevators and implementing signage and markers to ensure “proper” social distancing.

“[But] what about administrative controls which are the changes in the workplace policy to minimise exposure such as promoting work from home, promoting virtual communication and telework where feasible?”, she questioned.

She explained, if employees are working from home that means that the contact time will be limited to potentially spread the infection to other persons. In addition, when employees have returned to work, businesses ought to establish safe work practices which have the type of administrative control that includes procedures for a safe and proper work environment such as posting hand-washing signs in restrooms, requiring regular hand washing, providing no touch trash cans and promoting the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent certain exposure and respiratory protection.

As it relates to PPE, Joeline commented that persons are donning and dumping them incorrectly.

“So wearing your PPE incorrectly is equivalent to using birth control incorrectly. There’s no use to it. We get no use from it….with a mask we have found, we have seen people wearing masks and their nose outside. We also noticing some people when they reach into the groceries they removing their mask…touching the front of the mask when they take it off, all of which can cause the virus to spread,” Charles said.

Incorrect use of PPE is one of the major challenges that businesses will face during this pandemic, Charles said. The code of conduct is not only limited to businesses but even more importantly, for customers, she stressed.

If businesses allow customers to not adhere to its rules as it relates to PPE, then businesses and customers run the risk of spreading infection.

In addition, Charles said, persons washing and sanitising their hands, must do so correctly.

Charles advised persons ought to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap that lathers. If using hand sanitiser, rub hands together for 20 seconds. Do not use hand sanitisers more than three times consecutively as your hands will become sticky and the sanitiser “won’t be as effective”.

Charles also suggested businesses implement hygiene protocols for “shifting and receiving” goods at designated sanitised and sterilised areas.

Other policies that need to be established, according to Charles include the migration to contactless payment where possible. She gave the example of encouraging credit card touchless use where persons don’t have to use cash as often.

“Initially when there was the outbreak in China, they were actually keeping money for seven days and sterilising it. We haven’t done that. We haven’t reached that point yet and we don’t really have a wide spread like they did but having use of contactless payment is a good option to mitigate and stop the spread,” Charles said.

Another important step business ought to continue is restricting kids who are not wearing masks to enter business place.

“Of recent, we have realised that kids who have had COVID and successfully fought it off because they have a very resilient immune system…they seem to be developing a post-inflammatory syndrome that has been proven very deadly to them,” Charles observed.

Ultimately, Charles urged all to face this “new normal” with a brave and sensible front so that we can combat this illness.